The Advancing Leadership Blog

Optimize Your Leadership Development R.O.I.

Effective CEOs and business owners are constantly working to improve the leadership ability of their key executives. Typically these are people who hold important roles and big responsibilities. Therefore it is vital that they are able to connect with, and influence, others. The crucial importance of these people is underscored by the fact that many have most likely been targeted to play a part in the future of the organization.

Here is the reality: there are numerous consultants and corporate educational firms claiming to have the answer to helping leaders become more effective. Even the few well-designed program offerings do not deliver much tangible value in terms of leadership development. The big leadership development question for a CEO or President is:

Where do I get the best ‘bang for my buck’ or the best return on the money I spend?

In order to make better leadership development decisions, the members of TEC 214 have identified 10 points a CEO or business owner should look for in any leadership development program they may be contemplating. In our experience the few programs that deliver value have integrated many of the following characteristics, in no particular order, into their programs.

1. Experiential activities

A key element of effective management and leadership development includes experiential exercises and activities. Adults seem to learn the most by actually trying something; applying concepts or ideas to real situations. Taking an idea and applying it to a real situation or exercise involving a case study or some kind of simulation increases the speed and depth of learning outcomes.

2. Relevant materials

Generally speaking, using materials unrelated to a participant’s life experience slows any learning process down. Course materials should always include articles, case studies, simulations, etc. that resonate with a participant’s work environment.

3. Ongoing feedback to help reinforce and integrate key learnings

Some form of ongoing objective feedback as learning and development progresses helps participants integrate the materials at an accelerated pace, and much more in-depth.

4. Bonded peer group or learning community

A group or learning community whose members know each other and are dedicated to one another’s growth and development can contribute to deeper levels of learning.

5. Focus on emotional intelligence and relational skills

The foundation of managerial and leadership effectiveness is one’s ability to connect and forge relationships with others. This is often a key area of weakness for those who are being considered for leadership development. Based on the notion that emotional intelligence is an area anyone can benefit from working on, all programs include elements of this type of development, especially self-awareness and relationship management.

6. Delivery over time

A common mode of delivering management and leadership development is in the one to five day intensive sessions. We have found the half-life of this type of initiative is very short. People need time to integrate new concepts, experience their implementation, and seek consolidation of their learning throughout the process. In terms of time frame, depending on the scale of the leadership development initiative, think on a scale of about six and 10 months.

7. Group leader’s role is “guide by the side” rather than “sage on the stage”

Rather than lecturing, we believe that the role of the course leader is to facilitate a learning experience for his/her participants. The most effective programs tend to be less about a lecture and direction, and more about developing insight and integration.

8. Participants’s take responsibility for their learning

Those who will grow the most as leaders are those who have the strongest desire to evolve and develop. The best participants will be in a program because they crave professional growth.

9. Individual developmental agenda is established at the beginning as a benchmark or starting point

You will not find this very often! Participants should have an idea of where they are going or growing. It is always good to start with a plan or least have a sense of where the process is going. Some of this can be done online, but a personal interview is often best.

10. Judicious use of profiles and feedback to help build self awareness

Self-awareness is the key foundational element in improving emotional intelligence. Once one becomes aware of what is driving them (such as emotions and impact on others), the more they can understand about the process of building relationships. Heightened self-awareness results in relationships that allow influence.

Finally I’ll comment about the financial side of management and leadership development. Here is the truth: sometimes it can seem like a lot of money but, the reality is that the value of leadership effectiveness will pay dividends for years, resulting in a return that is higher than the original investment.

Keep these factors in mind when you are pondering which direction to take in helping your key people become more effective leaders. Your selection process will be enhanced if you look for the characteristics noted above.

Peter Buchanan is a TEC Canada Best Practice Chair in the Toronto Region. He works with people who can make a difference in our community and in our world. You can learn more about Peter on the TEC Canada website >

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